September 23, 2015
By LINDA COMINS Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
Bethany College officials today named the Rev. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg as its new president, effective Jan. 1.
Rodenberg becomes Bethany’s 20th president and the second woman to hold the top post in the institution’s 175-year history. She succeeds Scott D. Miller, who left the college at the end of the 2014-15 academic year to become president of Virginia Wesleyan College. He served Bethany for eight years.
Gregory B. Jordan, president of Bethany’s trustees, said, “The most important job of the board is to make sure Bethany has a great president who can lead the institution.” After conducting a national search, “We found a very special person, a person of integrity, intelligence and experience. It also really impressed us that she felt a calling to Bethany,” he said.
Gary Novak, chair of the search committee, said, “After an extensive search in which more than 70 candidates expressed interest in Bethany’s presidency, both the committee and Board of Trustees voted unanimously that Dr. Rodenberg was the ideal choice to lead Bethany to new heights.”
Jordan said, “Dr. Rodenberg brings a vibrant combination of talent, enthusiasm and experience to this historic liberal arts college.”
Rodenberg, who has extensive experience as an administrator and professor, has close ties to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Alexander Campbell, Bethany’s founder and first president, was a founder of the church.
Currently, Rodenberg is vice president of advancement for Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. She has held that position since 2011.
“I do think Bethany does have a bright future. I’ve looked at this from an outsider’s perspective. Students’ commitment is strong. Faculty’s commitment is strong,” she said.
A native of Colorado, Rodenberg made her first visit to the Bethany campus in September. “I’ve known about Bethany all my life, being raised in the Disciples of Christ,” she said.
She was impressed with Bethany’s deep and meaningful traditions and its facilities and campus. “It stands up to that test, visually and as well as in the people I’ve met, as the Harvard of West Virginia,” she said.
“There’s a quality group of folks here dedicated to the task to which they have been called. There has been longevity at Bethany that you don’t see at a lot of institutions and that speaks for itself. A lot of alumni have given back. I’ve met some exceptionally talented people since I’ve been here,” she said.
“As we look forward, we will face all of the challenges that liberal arts colleges in the nation face. We will do it with extremely talented faculty and staff. I am confident that Bethany has only better days ahead,” Rodenberg said.
The incoming president said challenges include the cost of higher education and the question of how to “subsidize or reduce those tuition costs without jeopardizing the institution.”
Recruitment and retention of students in a liberal arts setting remain a concern. She thinks a liberal arts education gives people “a way to navigate, to ask the deeper questions about science, about religion” and creates transformative leaders who have skills and can ask those questions.
“We have a very quick-fix mentality in this country,” Rodenberg commented. “I think education is going to be challenged at that pace. The liberal arts doesn’t necessarily move at that pace … We need to ask the deeper questions, not necessarily move at a break-neck speed.”
A challenge, she said, is to encourage students “to slow down and make an investment of four years of your life” and to convince them that it is a life-long investment.
“I feel like I have lived a journey that has led me to this place,” she said. “I, too, am the product of a liberal arts education and the product of graduate programs that promoted liberal arts. I do know the context and know it well.”
Regarding the Campbellite heritage, she said, “I see my role to begin to remind the church that Bethany is its college.”
Her husband, John Rodenberg, who is a vice president for Christian Church Homes, and their two children, Heather, 16, and Matthew, 12, will be joining her in Bethany, she said.
Previously, she served as intentional interim president of Disciples Seminary Foundation in Claremont, Calif., from 2009-11 and as a dean for the foundation from 2006-09. Earlier in her career, she was an adjunct professor at Claremont School of Theology, San Francisco Theological Seminary and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
Rodenberg served as a consultant for the Mozambique Council of Churches, South African Council of Churches and the United Congregational Church in South Africa. During that period, she also was an ecumenical representative to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Johannesburg, South Africa.
She began her career as a campus minister at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Later, she served as co-minister of Crittenden (Ky.) Christian Church and associate minister of First Christian Church, Bowling Green, Ky.
Rodenberg earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Texas Christian University, a Master of Divinity degree at Lexington Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and an Executive Master in Business Administration at Claremont Graduate University.